Credit points


Campus offering

No unit offerings are currently available for this unit



Teaching organisation

This unit involves 150 hours of focused learning, which reflects the standard volume of learning for a unit in a University qualification of this Australian Qualifications Framework type.

Unit rationale, description and aim

Graduates of programs in Ignatian Spirituality and Spiritual Direction should develop knowledge and skills in these disciplines and be able to reflect critically on the ways in which their personal development impacts upon their professional roles. This unit explores the early history of the Society of Jesus (or Jesuits), and the early-modern context within which it was forged. With the formative Jesuit experience as the unit’s focus, and the early-modern world of the 16th and 17th centuries as its backdrop, participants will gain knowledge, not only of early Jesuit history, but also of a key aspect of the Catholic tradition and world history more broadly. The unit’s themes, readings, and assessment are designed to provide methodological and conceptual tools to explore in a historical context larger questions about how religion shapes the world and, in turn, the ways in which human society interacts with the religious sphere. This unit aims to embed students’ understanding of the formative impact of the first 100 years of Jesuit tradition.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Articulate a critical understanding of the major developments—events, people, themes—in the early history of the Society of Jesus, 1540–1640 (GA4; GA5);

LO2 - Assess and evaluate current directions in the field through a close reading and discussion of the set historical studies (GA4);

LO3 - Analyse and interpret key primary source material from the period (GA10);

LO4 - Develop independent viewpoints in relation to the course materials (GA4);

LO5 - Develop research skills in response to the full range of course content (GA10).

Graduate attributes

GA4 - think critically and reflectively 

GA5 - demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

1: Beginnings

  • Ignatius of Loyola and the Spiritual Exercises;
  • The early Society of Jesus;

2: Contested Identities

  • The second generation of Jesuits;
  • Conflict, chaos, consolidation in the first hundred years;

3: Worldwide Jesuits

  • Jesuit Overseas Missions;
  • Hubs and Spokes: Jesuits between European and global realities;

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

THSP610 will be delivered in multi-mode, that is, in various combinations of face to face and mediated learning environments, utilising strategies which may include:

  • Self-directed activities (such as completing scaffolded reading tasks or web-based exercises) which enable each student to build a detailed understanding of a topic;
  • Small-group tasks and activities (such as contributing to discussion forums or undertaking peer review) which enable students to test, critique, expand and evaluate their understandings; 
  • Plenary seminars and webinars which enable students to link their understandings with larger frameworks of knowledge and alternative interpretations of ideas;
  • Practical or fieldwork activities which enable students to rehearse skills necessary to the discipline and to be mentored in that practice; 
  • Critically reflective activities (such as a guided Examen or private journal-writing) which assist students to learn reflexively, that is, to identify their affective responses to the learning and to integrate their learning with action. 

The unit is delivered with the expectation that participants are adult learners, intrinsically motivated and prepared to reflect critically on issues as well as on their own learning and perspectives.

Assessment strategy and rationale

In order to pass this unit, students are required to complete all assessment tasks and achieve an overall minimum grade of pass. All assessment tasks are designed for students to show their achievement of each learning outcome and graduate attribute. They require students to demonstrate the nexus between their learning, dispositions, and spiritual practice, and the evidence on which this demonstration is based.

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

In-course written and spoken tasks, based on set essential readings: a. short notes; b. seminar facilitation (equivalent to 3000 words). This task is designed to enable students to demonstrate apprehension of the contents of the set readings, independent interpretation and critical analysis, and effective written and verbal communication.


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA4, GA10

Essay (3000 words). This task is designed to enable students to select and enlist relevant material from a variety of sources, and to develop an extended, critical, independent argument. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

GA4, GA5, GA10

Representative texts and references

Alden, Dauril. The Making of an Enterprise: The Society of Jesus in Portugal, Its Empire, and Beyond, 1540–1750. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996.

Brill Jesuit Historiography Online:

Brockey, Liam. Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579–1724. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Fabre, Pierre Antoine, and Flavio Rurale, eds, The Acquaviva Project: Claudio Acquaviva's Generalate (1581- 1615) and the Emergence of Modern Catholicism. Leiden: Brill, 2017.

Ignatius of Loyola. Spiritual Exercises and selected Works, ed. by George Ganss. New York: Paulist Press, 1991.

McCoog, Thomas M., ed., The Mercurian Project: Forming Jesuit Culture, 1573-1580. Rome: Institutum Historicum Societatis Iesu, 2004.

O’Malley, John W. The First Jesuits. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 1993.

O'Malley, John W., et al. (eds). The Jesuits I and II: Cultures, Sciences, and the Arts, 1540-1773. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999 and 2002.

Padberg, John W. et al. (eds). For Matters of Greater Moment. The First Thirty Jesuit General Congregations: A Brief History and a Translation of the Decrees. St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 1994.

Županov, Ines G. (ed). The Oxford Handbook of the Jesuits. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.

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